Commercial Shot at AJs. Period.

Commercial Shot at AJs. Period.

(Crystal A. Proxmire, 3/12/2011)

When a big Hollywood film comes to Michigan, it can get people acting a little star-struck.  Tweets start flying and statuses start updating when Demetri Martin is eating at the Emory or Michael Cera is hanging out in someone’s front yard. Movies like Whip It, The Irishman, Hostel Part 3, Scream Part 4, and A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas are just a few of the feature films that were shot in the state in the past three years.  It is projects like these that will be remembered as some of the first in the Michigan movie industry boom.  Yet they are not the only ones that are part of this new foundation.


On Thursday, March 10, 2011 a film crew filled AJs Café at 240 W. 9 Mile to shoot a comparatively smaller, but no less important project: a commercial for Kotex feminine pads.


How could having a nondescript young lady sitting on a piano bench talking about her period for a short advertising spot compare to the glitz of the big productions?

Simple.  Film projects big and small contribute to the growing film industry and help local businesses prosper in addition to the production companies.  Places like AJs Café, Vogue Vintage and Mother Flecther’s have built up their reputations as businesses people the film industry can trust, thus they get repeat business.  And the stores and restaurants around them also get repeat business.

The shoot at AJ’s on Thursday took only a couple hours, but the exchange meant that Kotex will be getting a low cost commercial, while O’Neill makes a profit for the day of letting them use his spot.  The independent coffee shop owner has had a few film projects come along, including spots for Ford and the movie Whip It, along with countless shoots by students from Wayne State and Specs Howard, plus some independent films.

“We always have so much fun too.  I love the way they say the same thing over and over and over again for all the different takes,” he said.

When asked how the film industry is good for the community, O’Neill replied “We are a community gathering place and are a business of attraction more than promotion. We endeavor to be good community neighbors and as such, we think that the more accurate question is ‘How is the cafe good for the community?’ Filming at the cafe is good for the community. Period.”


During some of the downtime, O’Neill chatted with some of the production people on set. “The film industry and crew, as is the stand of AJ’s Café, are all in favor of keeping film incentives in place and even expanding them as a way of job/income creation at the main street level,” he said.


O’Neill has his own ideas for what he calls cross-trickle economics, which is one of the themes of his upcoming Assembly Line Concert.  This will be O’Neill’s third record-breaking attempt for the World’s Longest Continuous Contest.  He won last year, but the title was swiftly taken away by another show.  This year he and dozens of volunteers will try again, with 360 hours of non-stop live music.  The two previous attempts were in honor of American car companies and American Auto Workers.  This year his attitude has shifted, and he is pointing his finger at the industry and saying ‘shame on you for abandoning your workers, who are also your customers.’


“Henry Ford had a vision of his workers being able to afford to buy the cars they were making,” O’Neill said.  “Everyone is connected.  If they close up factories and send their jobs down to Mexico or wherever, how will they afford to support the company by buying their product?”


The theme of the concert spreads into all O’Neill does, including opening his business up to the production companies who are part of the film industry evolution in Ferndale and across the state.


O’Neil says he doesn’t know when the commercial will be finished or when it might air, but if he finds out The Ferndale 115 News will be one of the first to know.  Those who want more updates on AJs Café can follow them on Facebook at  Or check out their website at


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